The Eleventh Annual Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Architectual Design Excellence 2009
Berkeley Prize 2009

Dominic Mathew Proposal


“A new creation beginning with a model town and ending with a perfect world” The Mother

Thus in a single line was epitomized the true meaning of the existence of Auroville. Auroville meaning the City of Dawn was the creation of The Mother (Miraben) who was a disciple of Sri Aurobindo Ghosh, an Indian freedom fighter. The town of Auroville is situated in Pondicherry in southern India. It is meant to symbolize a universal town free of caste, religion, nationality or politics; where people live and progress together in harmony. Auroville is a self sustained town run with the help of solar, wind and biogas power. Having had a glimpse of the place while on a study tour of India, one gets to feel the interaction and culmination of the views of a thousand different minds just walking around the area. The whole town converges around the Maitrimandir, which serves as the fulcrum or ‘soul’ of Auroville. It is in the shape of a huge golf ball and serves as a place to meditate and find one’s inner consciousness. This town is a perfect example of juxtaposition of many cultural, spiritual, industrial, residential and most importantly; architectural sensibilities.

The architecture of Auroville is distinct and traditional. The place fosters ‘community living’ which I mentioned in my essay on courtyards. This togetherness has been achieved through the placement of buildings and use of material like the earth which helps a person get a rustic feel of the place. There are several educational centers run here, The Auroville Earth Institute is one of them. The Auroville Earth Institute (AEI), which is based inside the town experiments with various low cost, traditional and sustainable architectural techniques. It then imparts training to people from all over the world on these techniques, and it is not as if the town doesn’t practice what it preaches. The buildings in Auroville all bear the stamp of innovative - traditional techniques, like the use of corbelled arches, skylights or domes. The courses held by the Auroville Earth Institute are conducted in the framework of the UNESCO Chair Earthen Architecture “Constructive Cultures and Sustainable Development” and BASIN South Asia “Regional Knowledge Platform”

The programs that I wish to participate in are: •A course on the construction of Arches, Vaults and Domes which includes both theory and practical. •A course on the production and use of CSEB (Compressed Stabilized Earth Blocks) The courses imparted by the AEI aim to promote the usage of earth as a building material, for the beauty of architecture lies in the fact that it grows from need, from aspiration, from… the soil. Arches, vaults and domes are low cost techniques which have been in use for thousands of years, the spanning of structures using these are not only cost effective but also increase the visual appeal of the structure. Compressed Stabilized Earth Blocks (CSEB’s) are made by mixing earth with 3-5% cement. The advantages of these bricks are that they can be cast on site and their manufacture consumes less energy than a fired brick; plus it doesn’t pollute the environment. Simply moving around Auroville is a breathtaking experience, staying there and being trained by learned architects and designers would be a greater credit. Taking part in the program would mean that I too would get to experience the wide array of experiments which go on in Auroville, and not just be sticking to the above mentioned programs. Buildings in Auroville experiment with a variety of material and techniques, eco-friendliness, traditional,cost-effectiveness and sustainability methods being a few. Studying this will help me understand the finer basics of building and construction of structures that are useful to man and are not a burden on the earth; in short those buildings which leave the barest eco footprint possible. Since learning in college is strictly restricted to books and notes, having a practical understanding of how such techniques are used could further my education and assist me to help people in the future.


June 14th Departure from New Delhi Airport to Chennai. (The place where my college is situated is not connected directly to Chennai)

June 14th Arrival at Chennai Airport (4 hours flight)

June 15th to 20th & 22nd to 27th (programs are conducted from 8.30am – 7.30pm) AVD Theory (1st week: only lectures & study) and Masonry (2nd week: only hands on) Intensive courses on AVD (Arches, Vaults and Domes) • The first week is theoretical: trainees learn the basics of AVD and how to study the stability of arches, vaults and domes. • The second week is practical: trainees learn how to build various types of arches, vaults and domes.

29th June to 4th July One-week intensive course on production and use of CSEB (Theory and practice) • The first week deals with the production of blocks and is theoretical and practical: trainees learn the basics of soil identification and stabilization, etc. and all steps for the block production and quality control. • The second week deals with masonry with CSEB and various stabilized earth techniques developed by the Auroville Earth Institute: stabilized rammed earth foundations and walls, composite techniques, arches, etc. P.S. This course is compressed into one week and is intensive in nature.

July 6th Departure from Chennai Airport July 6th Arrival at New Delhi Airport


200 Euros fee per course for students. The fees (to be paid by cash in Euros) include the training expenses for one week only, manuals, documentation, all materials and, the boarding and lodging. The boarding & lodging is in dormitories, in the Auroville Earth Institute premises. TOTAL 200 Euros x 3 = 600 Euros ($798.36)

Air fare (one way) - $294 (New Delhi to Chennai, distance of 2154 km) TOTAL $294 x 2 = $588

Taxi fare (one way) - $59 to reach Auroville from Chennai Airport (at a distance of 150 km) TOTAL $59 x 2 = $118

Miscellaneous expenses on the days in between starting of courses.

Accommodation (depending on room type ranging from 5-15 Euros per day) TOTAL 5 Euros x 3 = 15 Euros ($19.96)

Local Transportation (bicycles, mopeds) on rent TOTAL $30 for 20 days

Transport fare ($1000) = $706 Basic-living expenses ($2100) = $818.32

GRAND TOTAL = $1554.32

(Currency values as per March 31, 2009)


Ms Priya Bose Secretary Auroville Earth Institute Auroshilpam, Auroville 605 101 – T.N. India Tel.: 0091 (0) 413 – 262 3064 / 262 3330 Fax: 0091 (0) 413 – 262 2886 Email: Web:

Additional Help and Information

Are you in need of assistance? Please email
Mr. Dominic Mathew, Birla Institute of Technology, Mesra, Ranchi, India; for travel to the Auroville Earth Institute, Auroville, India
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